By Vanessa Lopez, CAGJ Food Justice Project Volunteer
It isn’t a mistake that the average person knows next to nothing about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). It’s a secret trade agreement being negotiated by several countries in the Pacific Rim based on investor interests, unbalanced power dynamics, and corporate values. If the TPP is enacted, It will establish a “free trade zone from Vietnam to Chile, affect about 800 million people, 1/3 of world trade and nearly 40% of the global economy” (Democracy Now). Those privy to the document text include a very small group of government officials and about 600 corporate ‘advisors’ who are influencing agreement language to extend corporate powers nationally and internationally. No, these advisors are not independent consultants offering fair and balance advice. They include people on the payroll of Monsanto and Halliburton. U.S. involvement started with President Bush, and now President Obama is continuing to maintain secrecy of the document’s details and plans.
The one element President Obama hasn’t been shy about is ‘Fast Tracking’ the TPP approval through Congress. Traditionally, trade agreements are approved or denied by congress after members have had a chance to review and suggest amendments to the treaty. This review period allows the public to understand what trade rules our citizens will have to abide by. Put simply, when our government commits to trade with other countries, new legal structures and rules are created that override, suppress, and re-write national law. Leaked portions of the TPP relax and legalize de-regulated food and safety, environmental, and financial regulations. For instance, the agreement bans local sourcing of shrimp requiring businesses to source shrimp from a country with lower food and safety standards, legalizing the distribution of unsafe food. Laws that are enacted domestically like I-522 can and would be stripped because of strict labeling bans within the TPP.
President Obama hopes to finalize the agreement by the end of 2013 and present it to congress for a vote through ‘Fast Track Authority’. This authority is not currently in effect. Congress must grant this authority to the executive branch because it maintains exclusive decision making powers on international trade. If Fast Track Authority is granted, congress relinquishes the right to amend the agreement before voting yes or no. Considering congress’ modus operandi of voting down pretty much anything Obama presents, the fast track authority might end up working in our favor. But with congress also being pressured by corporate lobbyists who also serve as advisors to the TPP and have their hands in many legislator’s election funds, the M.O. against Obama may crumble. We absolutely CANNOT take that chance. Because of the secrecy surrounding the text, the public has only one option for influencing the TPP: Speak up and tell congress you are paying attention!
Make your voice heard! Call our Washington State Senators and Representatives and say the following:
- I oppose granting President Obama Fast Track Authority to approve the Trans Pacific Partnership
- I demand that the executive branch publicize the Trans Pacific Partnership language so U.S. law makers and citizens can actively participate in forming and driving true fair trade;
- As is, the Trans Pacific Partnership removes my right to safe food and a healthy environment.
Senator Maria Cantwell – (202) 224-3441
Senator Patty Murray – (202) 224-2621
Find Your House Representative by visiting www.house.gov and entering your zip code in the “Find Your Representative” field.
Keep Learning about the TPP by visiting www.tradewatch.org, www.exposethetpp.org, and http://washingtonfairtrade.org/transpacific-partnership-tpp/